Tag Archives: Christian

A Christmas (Blog) Story (1)

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Well dear readers, friends, we’re finally here, and I’d like to wish you all a very happy December.

This is the time of the year when everyone seems to say “Can you believe it? December is here already, hasn’t this year gone by quickly?”. I personally don’t think it has, but it is a natural time of reflection when the seasons change and the calendar year comes to an end. We ask ourselves where the time has gone, and it is a chance to look back in reflection and also to look forwards in hope.

‘Blogmas’:

I’ve never done ‘Blogmas’ before, you know, posting a new blog post every day in the lead up to Christmas. I really like this idea and have often enjoyed stopping by different ‘vlogs’ on YouTube for ‘Vlogmas’.

It’s the 5th of December, so I’ve already missed the first few days, but it’s nice also to blog as we approach Christmas, without necessarily doing this every day. Just as I created my Winter Survival Guide series (my 50th and final post for that series will be coming soon!), I’d like to also blog regularly in December. I love the idea of reading your Christmas themed blog posts, and ‘blogmas’ posts, it is a cosy and comforting feeling.

However, as I contemplated using the term ‘blogmas’ in my title, I realised that it wasn’t really what my heart was going for. Which is why you can think of this as a Christmas blog story, as I like to focus on Christ being the centre of Christmas, rather than blogging or any other thing. It’s just a personal feeling I had for my own blog, but like I said I love all of your blogmas posts and will enjoy reading them. So, what instead….?

Advent:

Who doesn’t love an advent calendar? I have quite a fondness, even though I don’t have one myself, for those hand stitched patchwork style advent creations with hand stitched pockets. I think we all love the countdown to something special and exciting and worth celebrating.

For many of us, Advent signifies the first coming of Jesus Christ into the world, and the waiting and anticipation of those who lived during that time. Now as a Christian, I can approach Christmas reflecting back with gratitude for Christ’s first coming into the world, and looking forward in hope to His second coming for He will return again, and also celebrate the Christmas season knowing and experiencing personally that He Is Emmanuel – God with us – The One True and Living God, here, and now.

Advent is also a time of preparation, and I love this because as a Christian, preparing my heart for Christ is a daily thing, however at this time of the year it is a new and fresh opportunity to do this with other believers and also to know that the world around us is celebrating and anticipating and that this is an opportunity to share the Light, Love and Truth of Jesus Christ with all.

What are you waiting for?

As a Christian, I wait on God, and I live in the experience of His present love, forgiveness, peace, joy and truth. I wait, and yet I am also fulfilled.

What are you waiting for and preparing for at this time of year?

I look forward to sharing my journey, this year’s Christmas (blog) Story with you as I give you a glimpse into my thoughts, friendships, travels, holiday fun, faith, spirituality, home and lifestyle. I hope you will stay with me as we continue on to the next chapter, and as we hopefully approach what will be a “Merry Christmas for one and all”.

God bless. x

Anxiety and going to church.

It’s Sunday morning, 9.24am, and ‘Life as it happens to be’ today sees me seeking God for help with anxiety. There’s something about being in the Presence of the Living God, and worshipping Him with His people gathered together on a Sunday, listening to the Truth of the Word spoken, and nourishing our spirits that brings a satisfaction and deep connection with our Creator. In times of worship, amidst the crescendo of praise to our Great God, I can close my eyes and feel like I am connecting one to One with the Lord Jesus. Being part of the family and ‘Body of Christ’ as believers is a beautiful thing, despite the challenges that families do face, it is a connection that is spiritual, and borne out of the pure agape Love of Christ Who unites us. 

That being said, the process of managing anxiety, of managing all the practical things it takes to get ready in the morning, prepare mentally and simply get out the door, step into the world and get there on time which can be a big struggle for people with anxiety that isn’t the case for people who don’t have this ‘bug in the system’ with regards to fight / flight, our nervous systems going haywire, and our thoughts looking for ways to ‘get out’ of things, which could be, and as it is in my case, the result of previous difficult and highly stressful experiences in childhood.

We are told to ‘be anxious for nothing’ in Philippians, but to present our requests to God with thanksgiving so that we can experience the Peace of God in Christ that transcends all human understanding. This is our standard, our comfort and our encouragement. But I do acknowledge and give a ‘shout out’ to my brothers and sisters who also struggle with anxiety, crowds and social situations, walking down the street and maintaining composure internally and mentally, that we are humans, we do stumble about, trip over our own feet and get stressed when we can’t find our keys or don’t know what to wear and all the time wanting to honour God but knowing we are kind of hopeless at this thing called life. Is it just me, or is anyone with me? Maybe you see me, or I see you in church and we look like we ‘have it together’. We don’t. Trust me. No one does. That’s why we need Jesus. 

And as I try to encourage myself through this post, I’d like to also encourage and remind you that our God Is wonderful, compassionate, patient, gentle, and steadfast and unwavering in His Perfect Love for us. Jesus Christ IS The Good Shepherd, His sheep know His Voice, and we follow Him. He leads us, gently, tenderly, and He also trains us rigorously sometimes to live lives of Righteousness, only possible because of Who He Is and what He has accomplished at the cross – Victory!

Psalm 139 is a beautiful reminder that no matter where we go, or run to or try to hide or what we might be doing, God Is there, right there with us. Always. So even if anxiety gets the better of you and you stay at home, your Loving Saviour is right there with you, drawing you whether or not that be in a church service, on a mountain, in the quiet of your own space, TO HIMSELF. 

Yet, in the gospels He also bids us to Come…to Come to Him….and also to get up, to rise and follow Him…one step at a time, knowing that He goes before us and Is our rear-guard of Protection. What a wonderful Saviour.

What about you? Do you have any experiences that you can encourage the rest of the body of Christ / His family with? 

Lastly, I sometimes need a bit of a musical encouragement to get me going, so I have been listening to this this morning. xx

 

Retreat Reflections ~ Day 2 (Part 3) – The One thing I need…

Following on from the 5-senses exercise I suggested around an hour ago, I did put on some relaxing instrumental worship music, which helped me focus my thoughts to the very Giver of Life, and I cosied myself up in a soft throw blanket and sat on a soft rug on the floor. 

I had intended to do the five senses exercise, which I often do when I’m out and about to manage anxiety symptoms when they arise. 

This particular date, June 11th, is a very significant day for me spiritually so it was important for me to spend time with God. I sat, cosy in the stillness for a while, gently aware of His Presence, and allowed my breathing to slow as I listened to the peaceful instrumental worship music. I gently and naturally observed things around me, the cherry blossom wall decal, the light coming through the window, and noticing the softness of the blanket and the hardness of the floor. I wasn’t paying particular attention to notice things but just letting myself be, and I ended up closing my eyes, and listening, and worshipping in my heart, and then curling up and laying down on the fluffy rug with my blanket around me, as I drew near to The LORD and thanked Him for this significant date in my life and what He has done for me. 

You may see me through the journey of my blog as someone who is productive, and positive about life. But the Truth is, I am Held. The Truth is, as you may know if you have read previous posts, I was severely traumatised as a child bullied in school, and this didn’t leave me in adulthood no matter how hard I tried to get past it and I have gone through severe depression, anxiety, self-hate, low self-esteem, fear…a lot of fear, and panic attacks. When lying there, I realised a little of how far God has brought me. I also felt within me the helplessness of just being me, being a person, and the ‘yukiness’ of sin in my heart. I was aware of God’s constant, pure, beautiful, love, mindful of His Sacrifice for me, so that He can free me from my sin, from myself, my hurt and the absolute dead end and mess my life would be, internally and externally, without Him. And in that quiet, in my helplessness, I knew I am now safe, always Held, Secure in Christ’s unfailing, sacrificial, clean and perfect love. Some of us wonder how our Creator could have such love for helpless, weak and foolish sinners like ourselves – and yet in those precious moments, even in our need…we realise although we don’t understand just why He Loves us, He does….and the connection between Creator and His creation, His children somehow makes sense. And that is The One thing I need, Jesus Christ, out of which everything else flows to transform my otherwise broken, helpless, confused and distressed life. 

Maybe you don’t believe in Him, maybe you think that you don’t need Him, maybe you defy all thoughts of your own helplessness or sinfulness. You can plan, prepare, strategize, try and try again, and keep on pushing through your life, and succeed outwardly on many levels. 

But in those quiet moments, when you are all alone, is all your trying enough? Or are you actually stuffing a lot of things down deep within your heart – anger, hurt, fear, bitterness, trauma, pride, boastfulness, arrogance, apathy, darkness and pain? Are you seeking inspiration from other equally broken human beings, and we all are broken in some way, even in this world that desperately tries to present itself in a perfectly filtered light.

I know I am helpless without God, and I know I am safe to be helpless with Him, because He Is Strong enough so that I don’t have to be….His Strength transforms my weakness, and gives me new life, purpose and hope. When Jesus Christ draws near, and you draw near to Him, His Love, His Forgiveness changes you. A light is shone upon the things in you that you cannot face by yourself, but the Light is of Love and grace and forgiveness, and deep renewal. I found myself praying for the people who hurt me, which believe me has taken years, but it came easily and peacefully because of Who God Is, I thanked Him for the pain, because it led me to Him, to an appreciation of His Sacrifice for me, the incomparable pain He went through to save my lost and sinful soul, and declare me His, to declare me righteous in Christ, through faith and not through anything of myself, because in myself there is nothing good. But in Christ I am a new creation, blameless because of Who He Is and what He has done. 

But just as with writing, it is a process to be renewed inwardly. It is a process far deeper, and far more freeing than any amount of ‘self help’ and believe me before I knew The Lord, I tried it. Self help is a bandage, but it is not the cure. Someday that bandage will fall off, and either we will find another temporary fix for the things in ourselves that none of us can repair, heal from or overcome, and we will look to someone or something else for aid. 

How thankful I am that despite how helpless I am, and no matter the struggles I have been through, I am safe in Christ, indwelt by the Spirit and Loved and securely Held by the Great Physician, The Only One Who can Truly help and heal us Deep within, not just patch us up, but set us free, and bring purpose out of pain. Yes, it may take time, it may take difficult things coming to the surface, it may seem to get worse before it gets better, but everything He does, He does well….He can free us from the mess we make of ourselves, our relationships and the world. 

There is nothing like knowing that the reality that no matter what the narratives are of our lives, if we honestly and humbly ask Jesus Christ for help, He will never turn us away. He IS Love. He Is The Way, The Truth and The Life. I didn’t have that before but in the moments of retreat and stillness, I am reminded of the wonder that He Holds me, He holds my life, and transforms a broken life into something victorious, because He Is Perfect Love. 

To come back to writing, and writing honestly and authentically, I am reminded of the healing and renewal process within me. I am reminded to be gentle with myself, and just as I develop the characters in my novel, who each have some reflection of myself as their journeys help me to understand mine better, so too must I take time to allow my lessons to work deep within me, so that what I write is more than words on a page. 

Our creative journeys may be different, but taking time teaches us so much more about our craft or practice, it teaches us about our self.

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Notes from a Writer on Retreat! 3

It is morning, 8.15 am, and I have been up for around 45 minutes. Last night at around 3.30am I was able to do some more writing, which has brought me a little further along and left me feeling excited as to how things will develop for my characters. I only wrote an additional paragraph, so my word count over the past evening and early morning is a bit over 1,000 words. Thank you for reading my earlier blog posts about preparing for this writing retreat, I am encouraged to share this journey. I have been working on this book on and off for just over ten years, and it is an expression of a deep place within my soul. 

I am blessed to have this time off from work, even ‘just’ three days, to savour the creative process and take my time with things. 

This morning, the sun is shining and there is a cool, gentle and crisp breeze in the air. It often rains here, so a day like this is a gift, and I am thankful. I can hear the chatter of birdsong through my open window, and I can also hear the rush of traffic over the motorway bridge as commuters make their way to work. I am both cocooned from the world, being on the 10th floor and with my windows laced with tulle to ‘keep the world out’ but also to allow me to observe it. My view overlooks the city, but in the distance I can see hills, trees, a few fluffy clouds, and a pastel blue sky. I awoke with thoughts running through my mind of things I wanted to write, which is lovely, to have that creative flow so early on. I am ‘half ready’ if that makes sense, having prepared myself for the day and got changed into some light and comfortable clothing, but I am not ready enough to go outside. After some refreshing water, I didn’t go straight to writing, but I spent the first 40 minutes or so in prayer and worship and committing my time to God.

Music helps me to quieten myself and be still before God and the lyrics help focus my thoughts and intentions and allow God to guide my heart and purpose. 

If you are interested, this has been my morning worship playlist today. The lyrics are beautiful if you take time to listen, and the final song is really a prayer and offering to God and a request for Him to establish the work of our hands, for His glory, for without Him we can do nothing.

I also came across in my ‘reader’ feed a beautiful blog post which inspired me to reflect and I will share a link to that post below. It talks about being humble in our attitudes and what we do, in response to Christ’s humility, and God’s view of those who seem ‘less’ in the eyes of the world. This links to a central theme in my book regarding the transformation of people who have been crushed and downtrodden, to be used mightily as part of a bigger purpose. I will not give too much away, but I was pleased to see this post and the connections that God is leading me to think about. 

I recommend that if you are embarking upon a focused time of creativity to begin in quietness and reflection and inspiration, remembering the purpose of what you are doing and the reason behind it. For me, I remind myself that all I do is because of the Love and Sacrifice of my Creator, so to Him I commit this writing retreat, and trust that He will glorify His Great Name and establish the work of my hands. 

This morning’s worship playlist: 

 

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The times, they are a-changing…

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Well today, the day after the United Kingdom held its European Parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Theresa May has announced her resignation, to be effective as of  Friday June 7th, two weeks from now.  She spoke of how she tried her best for the country she loves, and how she was motivated by her public duty and her democratic obligations to the will of the people, speaking specifically about the referendum vote three years ago that resulted in a simple majority to leave the European Union…or ‘Brexit’ as it has come to be known.

Most people feel disaffected with politics, although there has been expressions of sympathy towards Mrs May who was choked with emotion at the end of her resignation speech.

We face new challenges going forwards, and who knows what the rest of the world thinks of the United Kingdom in this respect. Yet, whatever our political opinions, persuasions or if we choose not to get involved at times, the Christian’s responsibility, regardless of personalities, politics or any other such thing, is to pray.

We are admonished in 1 Timothy 2:

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all people, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all…

Incomparably You ~ Living above the “Comparison Trap”…

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You were not put on this earth to be like anyone else. Think about that for a moment. Neither were you put on this earth to have exactly the same experience as anyone else (I have always been fascinated by twins, but as an ‘outsider’ to twin life I imagine that even then you have unique experiences that your twin won’t share…twins….feel free to comment! 🙂 ). 

If you are new to my blog, I am a gentle follower of Christ…my posts do not always explore issues of faith, some are to do with art, health and beauty, self reflection, mental health, creative writing, travel, photography, food, music, basically my life ‘As it happens to be’…and all are welcome, but my relationship with Christ is what makes me me. ❤ 

There is an interesting passage in Scripture, towards the end of John’s Gospel of Jesus Christ, where Simon Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples is with Him after His resurrection. Simon Peter is somewhat of an impulsive guy, he makes great claims about his devotion to the Lord and displays a lack of self awareness of his own weakness and sin. Before Jesus was crucified, Simon Peter, just as His Lord knew he would and told him so, denied Jesus publicly three times, after his previous emphatic statement that even if everyone else left Him, he would not, he would rather die with Him. But Simon Peter did deny Jesus, and Jesus still loved Him and died for him. So, after all of this Jesus is with His disciples, and they are eating fish by the Sea of Galilee. Jesus, beautifully restoring Simon Peter to fellowship with Himself asks him three times if he loves Him, which is painful for Simon Peter, as he does love his Lord, and yet denied Him three times. Jesus, the Christ then goes on to tell Simon Peter what kind of death he will die, and Simon Peter replies by looking to John and saying something along the lines of “Well, what about him?!”, to which Jesus Christ basically tells Simon Peter what has that got to do with you, you follow Me. 

And so we have it there, in the pages of Scripture a very 21st Century problem ~ “The Comparison Trap”. Whether you are a follower of Christ today or not, you have unavoidably fallen into this trap in your life, perhaps several times. You have looked away from your own life and purpose, looked around you and said in your heart or out loud, “hey, what about them?”. I reiterate: You weren’t put on this earth to be like anyone else around you, or to have exactly the same life experience as another person. And I say this with love, and through experiencing the hurts that such comparison can bring. 

So what is it that makes you look away from your own life to compare with others? Being inspired by others is healthy, but comparing and sizing up your life against someone else’s is not. What makes you think “it’s not fair”, or “why not me?” or even “why me, and not them?”. What gives you ‘FOMO’ ~ that dreaded, technology exacerbated ‘Fear Of Missing Out’?

Is it your lack of health compared to your friend’s wellbeing? Is it the broken family life you’ve experienced compared with your peers’ happy family experiences? Is it your perceived lack of talents next to that person who seems to be able to do it all? Is it your bank balance, your height, weight, stature, physical appearance or employment status? What makes you look ‘next door’ and compare? Perhaps it is the hand that you don’t have to hold, the child that you don’t have to raise, or the problems that other people don’t have to deal with. 

Or maybe, conversely you are proud of your greater level of health and fitness, of your ‘achievements’ as a family and of having a successful career. Maybe you are the one who is talented and can sing, draw, write, create music, travel, run a business, make amazing things and attract admiring glances that others you know cannot. Are you richer, taller, shorter, leaner, bigger, more handsome or beautiful, with a ‘better’ job than others around you? Do you take pride in that? Do you have that beautiful relationship and that family that you feel sorry some of your single or infertile or bereaved friends or acquaintances do not? 

Sometimes comparison can be good when it leads to gratitude or inspiration, but not if it leads to pride, self exaltation or bitterness, envy, self pity or jealousy. It can be good to realise that you are the one with a roof over your head, and have food, money, clothes and warmth when others are homeless and suffering. This sort of comparison should lead to a deeper gratitude for your life, and a desire to reach out to others to treat them in the way that you would wish to be treated if you were in their situation. If someone has talents that you wish you had, perhaps you can let that inspire you to explore your own unique gifts and abilities. And perhaps more difficult for the heart’s journey, if someone has that child or children when you are unable to, can you be grateful for them, and pray for them, seek to help children who are unfortunate, and be pleased for those who are in a good home, loved and cherished, even if it is something that you do not know or don’t have the opportunity to give as much as you long to. Can you be pleased that the family as the building block of society is thriving among the lives of your friends, even when you find yourself ‘lacking’ in some way. Can you be happy for those couples if you find yourself single and wanting a life companion? Can you appreciate that their lives are not all plain sailing, and that there are blessings that you have that they do not, and that you might have more time and freedom than perhaps they do. 

Our lives are different, complex, unique, and we all have things hidden within our hearts that no one else knows about, so to compare ourselves and our journey’s with each other in a negative way detracts from the richness of our shared journeys. 

Yet, what I write is not a lecture to you of dos and do nots. It is simply to say that there is no one else like you, there never has been and there never will be. With all that you like and dislike about yourself, you are unique, one of a kind, irreplaceable, made for a purpose, loved and the only you there will ever be. You do not have to live in the comparison trap. You do not have to stay wounded there. You can rise high above it and learn to soar as you realise that your life will be lived out in a way no one else’s will, even in the smallest details if not the grandest achievements. 

No one else can give to the world what you can, and perhaps you can help others to find and appreciate that in their lives too. We were never meant to be someone else’s copy, replacement or backup plan. You are incomparably you, so don’t ever fear missing out by not being like someone else or having the life that they have, or even having the life you wished you had. This is your journey, life it fully, right where you are. xxx